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Editorial: Caps are welcome
They just need to be structured to meet needs
by justin 12:22AM Wednesday Jun 04 2008
Update: A few more hysterical commentators appear to think I've been 'paid off' or something, to address that concern please read a new last paragraph.

I see that the mainstream press has picked up the "blogging" condemnation of the Time Warner experiment with tiered pricing, and usage caps. My own view on this probably counts for little but since dslreports.com is a "blog" as well perhaps I should set out my view for the record: Caps and tiered prices are overdue. The backlash against them at best misrepresents technical issues, and at worst is self-serving.

Clean fast bandwidth is not an inexhaustible resource. I want my ISP to deliver maximum speed without any perceptible congestion, and with minimal latency. I want them to invest heavily in their infrastructure to ensure they can meet the speed and latency targets morning noon and night. When an ISP engineer says that metering and caps are necessary for quality service, I believe them. Any customer of a data center understands the equation: they understand that BOTH speed and monthly usage are key factors in pricing. US ISPs, due to inheriting dial-up pricing plans (effectively included caps due to very low speeds) have been missing one pricing factor, to the detriment of the majority of users and the benefit to a minority.

The argument from good business sense:

If an ISP offers true un-metered bandwidth to any customer who pays the monthly fixed rate then sooner or later the ISP is going to degrade service to all users in order to cope with demand. Any ISP that truly does not currently meter bandwidth usage is simply lucky that their current mix of users fits within their infrastructure capability but that situation is temporary and unstable. Sooner or later as the customers party on fixed prices they will either have to increase their prices overall, degrade their service, or start to meter and deny service to some. I think it is no secret that all large broadband providers have introduced secret usage caps of one kind or another. These are undoubtedly applied arbitrarily as and when the ISP feels their infrastructure stability is challenged. I prefer to be a customer of an ISP that openly advertises that it has caps, describes what they are, and offers price plans if higher monthly usage is necessary.

The argument from security awareness:

If bandwidth is treated as unlimited, and free, there is a diminished incentive to secure wifi networks and keep ones PC uninfected. This site has been a past victim of distributed denial of service attacks from networks of PCs that are probably on un-metered or poorly metered broadband plans. When ISPs clearly identify to subscribers that bandwidth is not free then, as if by magic, wifi networks are secured with a password and - I believe - PC security awareness increases. Faced with the possibility of eating ones allowance and getting capped to an almost unusably slow speed a subscriber will pay more attention to articles on anti-virus products and protect their account against bandwidth-leaching applications such as malware and spyware.

The argument from product flexibility

In australia, which has had usage caps from the get-go, I can get ADSL2 and higher speeds than in most of the US. I think this is because offering speeds as high as technology will allow is safe when subscribers are unable to run it full bore all day and night. I would rather have a low latency 100 mbit product with usage caps or overage charges than a 4 mbit product that is unlimited. The horror of public usage caps in the US has probably hindered roll-out of the fastest tech. If pricing is allowed to correctly reflect usage then I expect some ISPs will feel more comfortable with offering faster lines.

The counter argument

The main counter argument I can discern appears to be that caps will hobble new data heavy internet applications. The usual example of such a hobbled application is downloading movies from itunes (one of the few legal sources for such large files. However I doubt that the majority of metering critics are thinking of their itunes purchases when hammering their argument).

In my opinion the recognition that gigabytes of data are not free is actually a positive for advanced applications. It is much easier to plan, price and roll out a broadband product when the architect is aware of current pricing, and not scared of hidden caps. If there is big demand for 200+ gigabyte consumer products then I expect ISPs will be motivated to respond with fairly priced packages to suit. Caps will encourage such viable "heavy" services as ISPs can offer edge caches and other partnerships that make them faster and more reliable. If itunes movie downloading is the wave of the future, but caps (pricing) stands in its way, then an "itunes2" can partner with an ISP to cache their data within the ISP and therefore offer it un-metered. If they can't do that then perhaps the product is just not yet viable.

The elephant in the room

The majority of people likely to strike the kind of caps proposed by Time Warner in their trial, or who are running afoul of existing hidden caps, are using bittorrent to get copies of movies, anime, software and TV shows for free. For popular torrents - almost exclusively pirate titles - they are not just getting close to maxing out their download speed they are also maxing out their upload speed. And they are queuing up enough content to run their connections for days on end.

Regardless of the legality of this, just one of this type of user has a "footprint" within an ISP of 100 or more regular subscribers. They are also the more tech savvy users, the most actively involved in forums, blogs and online user groups. It stands to reason that they will be the most vocal critics of "user pays". I can understand that, it is difficult to give up such a windfall. If a big bittorrent user had to buy the capacity they currently use at home, at any data center, they would pay heavily for it. Getting it for $50 a month fixed price has been a bonanza for their hard drive. A bonanza that will inevitably be curtailed.

How this will pan out

I suspect caps and tiered prices for usage will spread rapidly. ISPs (where there is competition!) should be able to compete with each other by offering more generous allowances. The small group of users who find caps or increased prices impossible to live with will migrate to whatever ISP appears to offer all-you-can-eat gigabytes, but this will only push that ISP to similar open caps.

Eventually the market for secret traffic shapers and other nastiness will go away, and that will be a welcome result of pricing bytes properly.

ISPs have an obligation as they introduce caps. How about mirroring popular URLs within their network transparently, and then not charging for access to this data, or making deals with big content producers to cache data. ISPs that innovate to ensure caps are not a problem for the vast majority of users should be rewarded by subscribers.

If the marketplace for broadband were truly competitive the change to correct pricing would be smooth but given the locks some large providers have on their audiences I expect there will be many hiccups along the way and user groups will have to continue to work online to keep the big telcos and cable companies honest.

Added to this editorial:

I've had a couple of personal messages accusing me of selling out to Comcast, or sounding 'like a press release'. Well, this site has been my full time occupation for 9 years now, and now and again someone gets so upset that they accuse the moderators, myself, or "the site" of taking money to protect the interests of an ISP. Of course this has never been the case. One of the reasons we only run lower paying google adsense network ads is so ISPs cannot squeeze us with the threat of withdrawing revenue.

I'm not in the industry merry go round of shmoozing for quotes or scoops, nobody in business has my phone number, or has the slightest leverage over me or the site. Our income here is almost exclusively google adsense, no sponsorship deals, no promotions, few and very peripheral special relationships. How many other popular sites need such little income from the industry side?

My opinion is expressed in the title of this piece: caps (and/or metered usage) is the right thing if they are structured to meet the needs (of the majority). I've no opinion whether any existing or proposed caps are suitable. I am just of the opinion that all-you-can-eat isn't working too well, isn't a sensible way to sell access.

Unfortunately the minority of subscribers who are going to have to adapt their usage to stay within caps or tiers are the most active online, the most technical, and the most likely to be following and commentating on the story as it develops. I could be like some other bloggers I've seen recently and pander exclusively to that audience for virtual diggs, but that would be the real dishonesty, the real sell out.

356 comments .. click to read

Recommended comments

Phillip M Dampier

Rochester, NY

2 edits

8 recommendations

reply to just nuts

Some Facts to Consider (Was Er, no.)

I have to agree with those who have criticized the original editorial as being naive. As someone who has been involved in the political arena and have witnessed first hand a public relations lobbying narrative being established in order to pursue an agenda, I am not surprised the original author has been co-opted right into that narrative.

I am not afraid to challenge the cable industry narrative here. I have been doing it for well over a decade. As someone who wrote news articles for one Time-Warner division, I even got into hot water for publishing an unbiased neutral review of the competing DSL product from the local telephone company, and that article appeared on Time Warner's own website. When something is honest, fair, and based in reality, one should have the strength to make that case. But too often what one assumes as such, but in reality is based on only part of the story, it's critical to know more of the facts before rendering judgment.

Make no mistake. There is a very extensive, professionally run, and expensive public relations effort underway to create the narrative of a crisis in bandwidth in the United States. In order to pursue this agenda, the first step is to suggest and define a problem which requires immediate legislative or public policy action.

By using third parties (registered lobbyists, public relations firms, and supposedly independent 'institutes' and 'foundations' and their respective lackeys in the educational and professional fields) to first lay the foundation for the problem, the cable industry can then use this foundation as ammunition to suggest legislative changes and/or impose changes to their services supposedly to deal with said crisis.

Of course, few Americans are aware that the same people who suggest "first responder" measures like usage caps to relieve the crisis are precisely the same people who hired the public relations and lobbying firms to invent and promote the "crisis" in the first place.

It's a neat trick, and is done all the time on virtually every issue where big money is involved.

Best of all, this same practice is often successful at co-opting consumers who are naive about the manufactured narrative to serve as distractions or, in some cases, become unintentionally co-opted opinion leaders who are literally fighting against their own self-interests.

I don't honestly blame these people. They are up against a lobbying industry that has spent millions using psychology and focus group testing to perfect the arguments they use to help get them consumer allies to invest their time and efforts into becoming third party water carriers for the lobbying objectives. Of course, in the end they are rewarded with a reduced level of service carrying increased costs and penalties, and the hearty thanks of those corporations laughing all the way to the bank on the increased profits they can now earn.

In this case, the industry is employing the familiar "us vs. them" argument. The objective is to pit cable modem customers against one another by suggesting ones' neighbor is downloading too much, which somehow creates higher costs for the person that is not. Of course, this ignores the fact the pricing model for the cable broadband product has significant built-in profit and has, in most markets, remained unchanged for more than a decade and will remain unchanged in price, caps or not.

That's an example of what the lobbyists call, "the Shiny Keys Syndrome." While they press their argument with the people that matter, others are distracted with in-fighting about who is using too much of a resource that has a "shortage" only because the industry claims it does. Don't look at the many holes and hidden agendas in the lobbying campaign. Look at the shiny keys being waived by someone who claims that the equivalent of a Cadillac-driving welfare queen is stealing your bandwidth and making you pay for it.

There is a reason why lobbyists earn big bucks. Their distraction efforts are often successful, especially when they utilize evidence that often arrives in the form of secretly biased data from well-connected (and often financed) "independent" groups delivering the convenient arguments necessary to build the narrative. You wouldn't believe bandwidth was running dry if the cable company said it, but you might begin to if an "institute" either directly or indirectly financed by the cable company (but secretly) said it was the truth and other "experts" who made themselves available for press interviews strongly agreed.

The cable industry is seeking additional profits and reduced costs during this financially challenging period of time. With increased programming costs always forcing annual rate increases on the core video service tiers, and shareholders demanding returns that are simply not tenable in today's economy, corporations are looking for ways to appease shareholders. That means taking a second look at the cable broadband product line, which has been unregulated since its inception. It remains highly profitable, and the cable industry has regularly admitted such since the telephone company's DSL product began being aggressively marketed. Cable companies in general do not compete on price, but rather take some of the extra profits they earn and make sure they can market their product as the fastest Internet access in a service area.

With the growing, but well anticipated demand for increasing bandwidth, shareholders are not surprisingly unhappy with cable companies making these necessary investments, to continue to meet that demand. Price increases on a secondary product line like cable broadband are generally out of the question, particularly in markets with DSL competition which usually does compete on price (although not usually on speed). FIOS increases the competition question exponentially. Therefore, the best opportunity to increase return on this product is to reduce the amount of network investment required to maintain it at its projected growth and current price level. Imposing a cap on usage automatically accomplishes that, allowing the division to spend less and thus enjoy higher returns at existing price points.

The demand generated by this product line is, of course, a self-fulfilled prophecy when one examines the marketing of it. Consumers are encouraged to sign up for cable broadband specifically to download movies, music, TV shows, and other high bandwidth content at the fastest speeds possible. Road Runner specifically markets itself in most communities as the fastest ISP in town. So it should come as no surprise that customers do exactly as they were invited to do on their network.

To date, most cable divisions regulate most of their own product offerings. Road Runner, for example, offers different speeds and services across its many divisions. Some have had usage caps since the product was rolled out. But most have found such caps to be competitively untenable in most markets. What the Beaumont test suggests is that for the first time, this is not a test conducted by a single division for the purposes of possibly imposing it only locally. Instead, this is much more similar to the testing Road Runner did when it created a national speed cap in the late 1990s. (Those with Road Runner in 1998 usually enjoyed connections which had no speed limit beyond what the network itself could support.)

Such a test in one town in Texas has clear national implications should the corporate heads impose such usage caps on all Road Runner divisions. There is precedent for this behavior.

For those of us who have followed this business since its earliest days, the cable industry as a whole tends to follow familiar patterns to achieve its objectives, be it deregulation, rejection of new regulation, or generating alarmist publicity to justify price increases or service changes.

This is no different. Those arguing that such usage caps are an end run around net neutrality are on the right path, although to the cable industry this is more of a side benefit. Controlling illegal distribution of content usually involves the same applications which often give the network a real workout. By imposing financial disincentives on customers who use those applications, it may prove to be as effective, if not more so, than using punitive enforcement measures. It's a win-win. The content providers are happy because illegal trading of their content is down. The cable companies are happy because of the reduction in network traffic.

But always keep in mind usage caps have a convenient loophole for the content owners. To date, all such proposed caps come with an exemption - unlimited access to cable company-controlled websites and portals through which their licensed content can be accessed. New platforms are in development today that will allow consumers to download video-on-demand content to ones' computer or multimedia device, all while the usage meter is off for that "approved" content.

This upends the level playing field the Internet was intended to provide. Once again, an artificial cost barrier will be imposed on independent content producers who will now face the challenge of justifying a business plan to investors who ask why a consumer would access their product, eating away their available bandwidth balance, when they could view cable-owned or licensed content with no reduction in that balance.

While the demand for broadband content continues to expand, so does the network infrastructure available to support it, at costs far lower than what they were at the time of the original business model for cable modem pricing.

Do other broadband competitors see the bandwidth crisis that the cable companies are crying about? Certainly not the DSL, FIOS and related platforms which continue to see profits from their existing "all you can eat" menu pricing established in their business plans. Such networks continue to expand. FIOS at a rate even faster than earlier imagined.

The industry sector investing perhaps the most substantial amount of money with limited return for the immediate future is the wireless broadband technology being deployed by mobile companies, which have introduced some usage caps to maintain some control over their still adolescent network infrastructure.

In fact, for a cable broadband provider like Road Runner to suggest caps comparable to what wireless mobile providers are offering on those networks only highlights their greed factor.

What makes better sense is a modification of the currently reasonable policy that the most egregious bandwidth offenders who violate the terms of service in different cable divisions can continue to be dealt with informally with a request they reduce their usage, without establishing a hard and fast cap (which will become more egregious as bandwidth intense applications continue to be developed and will not likely expand with the rollout of those applications).

And doing anything but strongly condemning and opposing, using every legal and legislative means available to consumers, the kind of draconian limits being suggested by Road Runner, is to intentionally or otherwise become complicit in the cable industry's end run around the truth, all at your personal expense and against your own best interests.

The Road Runner is not an ostrich. No one reading this should be either. Keep your head out of the sand and fight these caps by contacting your elected officials, state attorneys general, the FCC, and your local media and suggest they investigate the cable industry for anti competitive behavior. And continue to support net neutrality. It will ultimately support your best interests.

Phillip M Dampier

Rochester, NY

1 edit

4 recommendations

Facts #2: He Who Controls the Pipe Controls the Content

The author who suggests that broadband caps are somehow a "welcome development" joins the crowd of the uninformed about what really drives this kind of proposal. If one steps back and looks at the industry narrative and positioning on this issue, both in Washington and in their statements to the press for public consumption, it's not too hard for anyone politically aware to see the public relations lobby hard at work to position the cable industry's broadband product as under imminent threat of being brought to its knees, while the real motivation is to maximize profitability, cut costs, and maximize shareholder value.

Others who suspect there is a connection between the net neutrality debate and the "bandwidth shortage" debate have it exactly right. The imposition of usage caps goes hand in hand with the plans of content providers to attempt to control the delivery platform, not through enforcement but rather by using dis-incentives like increased cost.

And the proof is in the pudding: Every suggested bandwidth cap will exempt content downloaded or accessed from the cable operator's own content/website portal. So if you own the content, or have an agreement with the cable company to deliver that product in a controlled environment, subscribers need not fear exceeding any bandwidth cap when dealing with their service provider's content. That easily increases the value of such exempt content, and makes BitTorrent and other networks in the copyright wilderness untenable. A win-win for corporate-controlled entertainment and distribution, a loss for consumers who will face precisely the same costs they do today with a dramatically less flexible service, whether it is used entirely legally or not.

Competitors and independent producers now have the disadvantage of attempting to compete on a playing field so unbalanced as to make it impossible to realistically use the Internet as a content delivery platform. It simply becomes too costly, both to develop a business plan challenged by the reality of a tightly capped Internet, and for potential viewers who now have to weight whether your content is worth using up your monthly allotment, when you could always visit the cable company's own portal and watch their content for free.

The vast majority of those quietly and informally capped by cable companies often far exceed even the generous caps being suggested by Comcast, and considering the massive profitability of the broadband cable industry, nobody is really being bled by the people they are informally regulating. And for a company like Time Warner to seriously suggest caps more common to mobile telephony, all at their existing rates, makes any effort to defend such profit-taking as naive at best, complicit at worst.

Make no mistake - there is no bandwidth crisis in the United States. This entire narrative is a product of a public relations effort to create the excuse necessary to justify massive profit-taking, underinvestment in network infrastructure allowing this country to fall even further behind, and restore as much corporate control over content as possible. This returns us to the days of a media financial gatekeeper which allowed only the biggest players to have open access to the content delivery platforms.

It is far easier to put the brakes on a company attempting to implement such draconian caps with vocal outrage BEFORE they are implemented. Allowing apologists to go unchallenged, or falling into the marketing trap of pitting customers against one another, is a fundamental mistake which will guarantee Americans pay the same or more for a service that will be purposefully restricted and controlled, not because of a bandwidth crisis, but for higher profits, copyright enforcement, and content control.

Control the medium, control the message.

Karl Bode
News Guy

4 edits

3 recommendations

reply to KrK

Re: Er, no.

My major problem is that the argument that these low caps and overage fees are necessary relies on two major untruths:

1) Cable providers are not making a healthy profit off of flat-rate pricing.


2) Networks are so congested this absolutely must happen.

You'll note that nobody can prove the first point because it's not true. Most people can't prove the latter either, because ISPs don't release raw data on P2P's impact, they release talking points and cherry picked data to justify whatever position they're trying to argue.

As for capacity, Time Warner Cable has made the conscious effort to take a wait and see approach on upgrading to DOCSIS 3.0. I'm willing to bet their VoIP profits alone could fund the relatively inexpensive (at least compared to FTTH deployment) upgrade, and the latest and greatest packet shaping gear to tackle P2P peak congestion issues.

If that doesn't do it, they could easily pursue Comcast's planned new approach of booting particularly egregious pirates from the network, push high-consumption users (which they admit only make up a tiny portion of their userbase) onto business tiers, or charge those users more if they're going to be gluttons and erode network quality.

There are ways to handle congestion outside of low caps and overage fees for all users. These companies are pushing for overages not because they're facing a bandwidth apocalypse, but because they want to limit the competitive impact of companies like Apple (AppleTV) and DirecTV (broadband VOD) who threaten their cash cow (TV and its bi-yearly hikes). They also, obviously, simply want to make more dough to please investors, and overage fees, once accepted, can be jacked up down the line.

I do not buy the argument that this is a natural pricing evolution made necessary by fiscal necessity or congestion. I also don't think the U.S. market is competitive enough (nor are regulators here courageous enough) to prevent such a model from being abused once we open the door to it. Competition in the UK has been killing off metered use, and in France, AFAIK, there's too much competition between fiber and IPTV carriers to get away with it.

Karl Bode
News Guy

4 edits

4 recommendations

reply to actor90

If it becomes the editorial policy of BBR to support restrictive caps of the Time Warner variety and that all opposing opinion by employees of BBR will not be allowed, then I fear BBR's days could be numbered as it's loyal users jump ship to find a site more inclined to their beliefs.
I wouldn't worry. My ability to express myself has never once been censored in any way, and I wouldn't remain here were it otherwise. Justin's beliefs are his own and vice versa. In fact I'd say he has unique insight being in the Australian market, where this stuff is commonplace, even though I don't agree with some of what he writes as it applies to this market.

I think I've made it pretty clear, being the guy that nationally broke both the news stories of Time Warner and Comcast's cap plans -- that I prefer reasonable caps (I think Comcast's are but Time Warner Cable's are not) and transparent traffic shaping over hidden caps and mysterious throttling.

That said, I still think overage fees, once implemented, open the door to all manner of anti-competitive behavior in an un-competitive market. I also think any suggestion that carriers are struggling financially under the flat-rate pricing model is total nonsense....

Time Warner Cable could just throttle those high-consumption users, force them to a business tier, or cap them. But you'll notice they aren't -- they're instead capping grandma on her $30, 768kbps connection at 5GB per month (one HD movie).

This has less to do with the "realities of the network" and more to do with cable companies protecting themselves from future video competition.

UEE Citizen

2 recommendations

reply to MrSpock29

Re: Strongly disagree with the opinion posted above

Some of you need a hard reality check. How can you believe rationing never worked is beyond me. It has been going on up here for years. Leave the 70s behind. We're in another era.

1) I never supported ISP imposing a hidden cap or sending out letters when they were advertising unlimited connections
2) I never supported ISP imposing ridiculously low caps that weren't on par with today's available media formats, notably HD contents.
3) I fully support imposing tier-packages or caps à la Tekksavy which are affordable, realistic, and impose heavy P2P users to dash out more cash to compensate for the load they force onto the network.

That being said I'd be a hypocrite to say I have never torrented. About 8 years ago in my teens I was heavy mIRC user with many Distro/FTP accesses. Then I couldn't afford games or softwares (300$ for an OS at 14?), and it was readily available, so the temptation then was too big to pass. I fully understand why people torrent and download illegally. However, I have friends my age (~22-27) which make ample money and are simply cheap bastards. They come ask me for help to pirate a 40$ software, DVD Cloner, which they use to copy dozens of DVD or Blu-Ray at 20$ a pop. Give me a break!

But as with everything there is a line to be drawn. P2P users doing 800GB per month and paying the same as grandpa who uses his Internet to check his daily news only is unacceptable and unfair.

I find it hypocritical that heavy P2P users (by heavy I mean regular users doing 200GB and more each month on a monthly basis) come whining here when clearly they pay 50$ for an account while saving hundreds with all the warez they download.

I'm 22 years old and have found a way to afford all my softwares, from the OS to MS Office or Adobe CS3. Being a student helps of course since we get heavily discounted software (70$ for Office Ultimate - wow). I myself have a Usenet account to get the various TV shows that don't air in Canada or to get them in HD format which we don't get here usually. I use it as my PVR and use 80GB per month at most.

Vidéotron offers 100GB. Tekksavy offers 200GB and you can buy additional 100GB blocks for 10$. I think Tekksavy found the golden spot as far as caps are concerned, and I hope other ISPs will use them as an example of how REALISTIC strategies are possible. I'd be a Tekky client if DSL was available where I lived.

Read reviews for Tekksavy, they are probably one of the highest rated ISP on BBR. It's working. Wake the hell up.

..needs sleep

2 recommendations

reply to FFH

Re: Er, no.

I'm not going to tell Karl to think a certain way. As far as I know he has spent a lot of time calling out ISPs for instituting hidden caps and cutting off subscribers with little warning. I haven't asked him but I'd hazard a guess that public caps and overage pricing would be preferable to the current situation. Of course all-you-can-use at a low fixed prices is the ultimate bonanza for users, and if available, the first choice, I just don't think it is sustainable.

By the way we're not the new york times with loads of staff and a daily editorial position. If you guys want to treat this as "my" view rather than "the view of the site" be my guest it doesn't make any difference - it isn't like I want to (or are able to) direct any site policy to support tiered pricing for usage, and caps. In the end the ISPs are going to try this and see how many people jump ship. If they lose only 1% of their subscribers, they'll keep the plan. If they lose 10% they'll adjust or back off. THAT will be how this pans out. Most people have a choice of cable or DSL (I'll ignore satellite which has been capped and is severely speed limited) and some lucky users have the choice of the main provider or a local or smaller ISP. If you don't have a choice, join a pressure group that supports muni broadband or more competition! if you do have a choice and hate caps, then vote with your feet.

Everybody Lies

Franklin, TN

4 recommendations

reply to ironweasel

My viewpoint as a small ISP

My viewpoint as a small ISP is this. We have a big fat pipe and well we sell internet access through it. This big pipe is doing nothing more than burning $$$ per month, so we have to get people to use it and their portion of it helps to pay for it.

So ok, we got the pipe, we got the customers, so now what? It's funny when you ask yourself that.

Simple, tweak the service, make it reliable and fast.

How? Traffic shaping again, but not in the way you think. We don't sit around and brainstorm how to starve everyone so we can cram as many people as we can on each AP, we brainstorm on what customers use it for and how to keep it running fast.

Our service is not blazing fast by comparison to the likes ADSL2 and Cable, but our business model is not to compete on speed, but to compete on price & service. Our service provides 3.0 Mbps D and 448 kbps U for $9.99 / month.

Who are our target customers? Well everyone that's tired of expensive dial up and expensive high speed. Sure, we have tons of competition, Comcast, AT&T, Clearwire, Speakeasy, etc. They offer faster speeds, some way faster. But they also offer higher prices for overkill. Our customers are John and Jane Smith, who want something fast enough to do all their web surfing with, watch videos, play games, etc. They know the burn of dial up in today's Internet where every page has a ton of active content on it. So we offer them faster Internet (or sometimes slower) for a bargain price. We don't do anything fancy with our network, we just concentrate on keeping the packets flowing smoothly.

All those taboo words in the tech world like "traffic shaping" we use to everyone's advantage. We have our share of power users who burn through several gb a day. We have our share of BT users. Instead of trying to fight all of them, we just worked it out this way. All of our casual users, the service just works, no fuss. All of our more technical users, we work with them. We give them ways to setup BT so they get maximum bandwidth at the most minimum impact to the network. That's the beauty of not fighting it, you earn respect. The BT power users, don't burn their BT client 24/7 to "stick it to the man" but actually do their download and then either set a rather low upload rate or just shutdown their BT client to "help the network" along.

I use to wonder why more ISP didn't work this way. Instead of treating the customer like a 3rd class citizen, treat them like, oh you know, the customer! We aren't immune to bad customers though, we've had our share of "your service sucks because it's too slow" and well we gladly to point them to other competitors that charge many times over for more speed if they just really must have it. It's funny how even customers that are not happy, change their tune once they go back to the other "guys" for a little while, only to return to us with no more complaints about us.

That's my spat on things anyway. I think, as an ISP myself, metered bandwidth is just the wrong direction. If we can manage a small ISP without having to resort to many of the "big boys" tactics of hidden clauses in contracts, charging you overage fees, metering bandwidth, and monthly caps, then why can't everyone else? Do you know how much it cost to do all of that extra stuff? A lot of time and money and equipment, which if it was just invested back into the network, you wouldn't have the problem to begin with.

But as we know, it's money, money, money. Hey, I won't lie, I'm a business to, I want to make money. But I know that a happy customer is a loyal customer. A loyal customer if a customer who spreads the word and that is the best kind of advertising that no amount of money or fake groups can buy.

Maybe I'm naive because we are small. We only serve one city and as things grow, we have to make decisions about leadership and management within the company. I can only imagine the amount of time and effort it is to manage a network as large as Comcast or AT&T. But surely part of that is planning, respectable staff, and respect for your customers for whom make the service possible right?

We can all dream.....
Fight NebuAD and the like:
Click Here to pollute their data

Tech Nut

Fort Lauderdale, FL

1 edit

2 recommendations

Read this...

Mike Masnick at techdirt.com tells it best:

"If the CTIA exec gets his way and convinces providers to move more to metered bandwidth, then his belief that the internet has plateaued may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as it'll undoubtedly slow the pace of innovation online. Imagine, for example, that metered bandwidth was common when YouTube first hit the scene? It would absolutely have slowed adoption, because video uses quite a bit of bandwidth and people would have been a lot less likely to test it out. In fact, the same could be said for any kind of non-text multimedia. Podcasts? Why waste that bandwidth? Streaming radio? iTunes would also be more expensive, as every download doesn't just cost $0.99, but your metered bandwidth charge. If you look at history of innovative services, you'll see they tend to move more and more towards flat rate offerings, as it encourages usage and encourages innovation. Phone service and mobile phone service have both trended in exactly this direction -- and in both cases it's because it's opened up a much larger overall market, even if it means less per customer. So, why are we suddenly trying to go the other way with broadband?"


Imagine if users had to selectively choose which online services were best suited to their needs before ever visiting those sites for fear of overages? Can you remember the days of metered online dial-up access where you would login to start an email, disconnect, and then reconnect to send to save time and bandwidth? I imagine if this was initiated instantly around the world internet innovation as we know it would cease to exist and sites/services such as facebook, youtube, and even itunes would cease to grow. I'm not saying everything would die and the world would end but adoption rates and other significant innovation spurs would be curved. This is not good for the American and world people even though many might think so. This is just another excuse so the cable companies do not have to upgrade their deteriorating infrastructures.




Bryn Mawr, PA
·Verizon FiOS

4 edits

4 recommendations

Are you serious?

The USA is now 17th in broadband, down from fifth a few years ago. Caps DISCOURAGE companies from upgrading! If caps are allowed, I see a repeat of the telco fiasco in this country in the '70s, where the telcos, kicking and screaming finally HAD to upgrade their crossbar central offices to ESS, because they were literally falling apart.
In Europe, they had ESS in wide usage 20 years before we did here. Are you aware that Europe had PCM links and ISDN over 15 years before the USA did? France had telephones with screens and keyboards back in the 1970s. Yet in my old town (Rehoboth, MA) we didn't even have touch tone dialing until after 1990! Now YOU advocate a similar paradigm with broadband???!!! You truly MUST be kidding here!

Caps are counter-productive-especially in these days of streaming video. In essence, you want ALL online video to be pay per view! I'm sure that Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon and AT&T wholeheartedly agree with you-because caps insure THEIR continued monopoly as video content providers!

Caps will also stifle the growth of online radio, online programs, online gaming, you tube and other online services. Caps will stifle the adoption of alternative OSes like Linux. Caps can even stifle VOIP-another thing that the telcos and cable industries would LOVE!-after all, THEY want to be your phone company! SCREW Vonage! After all, all they did was INVENT the business! Let's steal it from them and then force them out of business! Great ethics you subscribe to, DSLR!

Look, broadband is a monopoly in this country. If you're lucky in a big city, you can get TWO providers-the cable company or the telco. In other areas, you're lucky to have ONE! Now you want those monopolies to have the ability to stifle competition against THEM???!!! You want THEM to have a 100% monopoly on content???!!!

Right now, online radio and video is in its infancy. Its growth has been stifled by the RIAA and MPAA. Now YOU advocate essentially snuffing it out before it even gets popular.

You are a tool for the incumbents and the enemy of the newcomer.

I PAY for my Internet, and I WANT my Internet unadultered AND uncapped!!


San Ramon, CA

2 recommendations


Keep it unlimited and crack down on the illegal torrent stuff.